Audiobook Review: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

14 02 2011

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Military Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Great storytelling and excellent narration make for a listening experience that you won’t forget anytime soon.

Grade: A-

I do not read a lot of military fiction and while I am fascinated by history, I don’t read a lot of Military History in general. I am in no way an expert on things military, or even versed enough in iit to know when things are authentic. I decided to listen to Matterhorn based mostly on the heaps of praise it has received both in print and audio form. Also, I have always been interested in Vietnam, since my father served as a Marine there, yet, conversely I am a bit tentative to spend my entertainment time on a realist portrayal of the Vietnam war, partly because my father served there as a marine. Sort of confusing, like, well, a poorly planned war. So, when I plunged into this novel, I wasn’t sure how it was going to affect me. I believe that it would be an experience, but would it be an experience I enjoyed?

While I don’t read a lot of Military Fiction, I have read quite a bit of Military Science Fiction, like John Ringo and David Weber. I have learned that there is an easily discernable difference between good military sci-fi and bad military sci-fi. In bad Military Science fiction, the author tries to impress you by how much they know about tactics, how cleverly they can place the chess pieces on the board to get the best military result. Good Military sci-fi is about the soldiers. While tactics are important, it is truly the story of the grunt on the ground, or the young officers trying to motivate, follow orders, and stay alive that make a story ring true. Matterhorn is truly a story about soldiers. In whatever way we can, Marlantes allows us to become part of the company. To see its soldiers for their positives and negatives. To feel the losses with them, both of their comrades and, in many cases, of their sanity. While those of us that were not truly there cannot ever really understand what it was like, Matterhorn gives us a glimpse.

Audiobooks can often be quite tricky. I personally believe a bad performance by the narrator would have devastated this novel. Luckily, Bronson Pinchot pulls off an excellent performance. He reads the soldiers like real people, and allows us to become attached to them. His authentic handling of the material enhances what I believe the author was trying to achieve in this novel. The combination of great storytelling, characters that stay with you and an excellent performance by the narrator make this a listening experience I won’t soon forget.

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